My mom is in her early 70's and in very good health. About 6 or 7 years ago, our family started to notice her memory slipping. Here are just some examples of what we've seen:
-occasionally goes to a store or restaurant that she's been to before, but has no recollection of ever having been there, even if she was there recently
-often buys things and then later finds them and can't remember ever purchasing them or seeing them before
-when I helped my parents move 3 years ago, she had about 6 boxes of wheat germ in her kitchen, even though it's not something she usually cooks with!
-forgets things about her past, such as pets she had growing up, and certain accomplishments of her children.
-has a hard time doing certain things she used to, such as sewing
-often gets confused about recent events and has to be reminded about appointments, etc.
-at least a few times in the past few years, she's forgotten that a relative had died recently. A relative that she rarely saw and wasn't close to, but nonetheless...
-once in a while, she doesn't remember people that she's met recently, even if she had them over to her home
-forgets words... for example, speaking about an friend with Alzheimer's recently, said, "he has that thing where you don't know things"
-sometimes experiences dizziness and has had episodes once in a while where she basically has to sit down and then practically passes out... when she wakes up a few minutes later, she doesn't remember acting strangely
I realize that this sounds like a textbook case of Alzheimer's. However, her memory issues haven't really changed in several years. It's like her mind became a little "spacey" (for lack of a better word) and just stayed that way. Otherwise, she's fine. She does puzzles and word games every day, looks after their household needs no problem, drives, goes for walks, socializes regularly with friends, etc. She's never got lost. As for the problem with word recall, I have that problem myself and I'm 30 years younger than her, so I'm really not sure if it's connected with anything serious or not. I remember her having a bad fall about 17 years ago, fell on the ice and came down HARD on the back of her head. Sometimes I wonder if that fall injured her brain in some way and we're simply seeing the results of that now. She also had a strange episode several years ago that landed her in the hospital for a few hours. She suddenly couldn't remember who she was or anything at all... a few hours later she was fine and the doctor said it was 'global transient amnesia'.
My dad and siblings feel like it could be Alzheimer's, but no one's really sure. She saw a neurologist about 6 years ago and passed the memory test with flying colors. She hasn't had specific tests for Alzheimer's since and everyone's nervous to bring it up. But at the same time, if it IS, then maybe medications can slow down the progression. At times I feel like this has to be Alzheimer's and that it's progressing... but then she'll go through a long stretch where I hardly notice anything, and she comes up with names from 30 years ago just like that. Then I wonder if we're barking up the wrong tree. I mean, who KNOWS these days...? It could be something simple like a food additive that she's extremely sensitive to which affects her neurologically. She's had tests to rule out all the physical problems that can cause memory loss, and everything's fine. Does this sound like Alzheimer's? I would greatly appreciate any advice. We just don't really know where to go with this. Thank you!
it is difficult to say. I can only suggest that she needs to go back to a neurologist to do another memory test. They have MMSE and they also have verbal test in the office. My FIL had this verbal test for 3 hours and he could not draw a clock. Thus he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
Well, the part about her dizziness - this is NOT textbook Alzheimer's.
People with Alzheimer's don't pass out. It may be some other problems. Does she have low heart rate? My husband has low heart rate and he needs more salt and exercise. He passed out when he was teenager because of low heart rate. Now he is OK and we try to make sure he has enough exercise and salt intake. This is not part of Alzheimer's.
There are at least 9 other types of dementia, so she needs to be diagnosed first.
To be tested 6 years ago is a long time ago. She needs to get diagnosed again. Sometimes ct-scan or pet scan/MRI can help diagnosing her problem. If she had fallen before, it might cause some injury there but the doctor needs to look at that area via scan to find out.
I don't think it is as simple as taking some food. It is not so simple. She must have some condition that cause all these things. Alzheimer's is only one type of dementia.
She really needs to be diagnosed so you can help her.
Unfortunately you cannot stop the progression of Alzheimer's. Even with drugs like aricept or namenda, they only make her percetive and the drugs can only stop the progression 6 months at best. Sadly Alzheimer's takes a long time. It would be 5-15 years. My FIL has had Alzheimer's for at least 9 years. (we counted the time before diagnosis as well.)
There is obviously some type of cognition problem going on with her. I am not sure if it is Alzheimer's or something other type of dementia. This is why you truly should get her back to a neurologist. They need to test her and then test her again in 9 months or a year. Then they can compare the two test to see if there is a decline. Sometimes we don't see the decline but it is there.
One of the frustrating things about cognitive decline (whatever form) is that many times they will have periods of excellent cognition and other times with limited cognition. For three years before her diagnosis Mom had moments when I would go..."Hummm, something is not right!". Then there were other times I would dismiss those thoughts because she seemed fine. Yes, she did have Alzheimer's.
Beyond Alzheimer's there is a long list of other cognition diseases. Dad's Vascular Dementia was much as you described your Mom. He was diagnosed for 10 years before there was a major change. His declines were related to a cardiovascular event. Since she was in the hospital several years ago for something, which may have been a small stroke or TIA, the that is a possibility. Global transient amnesia is the diagnosis they put on a sudden, short term, loss of memory that they can not find a reason for. There could very well be a vascular component there that might point to Vascular Dementia.
Yes, major head injuries can have latent effects and they have been studied in mild cognitive decline so that's also a possibility.
These are just a few of the many possibilities. It is best to go back to a neurologist, have her tested again, and compare what he finds this time to what was present 6 or 7 years ago. Having that bench mark is a good thing because it gives you something to compare again.
Yes, we all fear a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or any of the other dementias but it is better to know than to guess. Put the fear aside, for Mom sake, and find out what is going on with her
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Thank you Nina and Deb for taking the time to reply... I really appreciate it! Any suggestions on how to approach getting her to see a neurologist again? sigh... She gets so stressed out when we bring this up that we've all started to avoid mentioning anything about her memory. But I know that's not exactly a healthy way to deal with the situation... we're all going to have to face this sooner or later.
Thanks again so much!
I didn't give Mom a choice. We had discussed it and she assured me nothing was wrong. She balked at every mention so I gave up on convincing her. The morning of the appointment I told her I had to go to an appointment so get ready. When she figured out it was for her, she didn't want to make a show in front of the staff, and she went along just to prove me wrong. That is not the way it turned out.
You can tell her it is a follow up to her GTA episode. Tell her the doctor called and she needs some additional test for whatever reason you can come up with. You don't have to tell her that it is cognitive testing. Call the doctor before hand or ask to speak to him in the hall. At that time fill him in on what you have observed. This way you do not embarrass her by discussing her deficiencies in front of her. I don't consider this being deceptive. I feel that it is being considerate of her emotional well being.
You will learn as time goes on, with cognitive impairment, you do what you have to do! Your Mom may not want to know and this may extend to the rest of the family but believe me it is better to know than to guess. It gives you the benefit of knowing where you are going and therefore create a plan of action that will benefit Mom. I learned a along the way that there are times we do what somebody needs rather than what they want. You are right, you are going to have to face it sooner or later and I can tell you from experience that sooner is better!
Thanks for that advice. To make matters worse, my parents have their home up for sale and so may be possibly moving. Way too much going on for her right now as it is, but as soon as they're settled into their new place, we're going to pursue this and make sure she gets the appropriate tests. Thanks again,... I'll likely be lurking here so will no doubt talk to you again. All the best!
A heads up.... Do no be surprised if she seems more confused after the move. A new living arrangement can throw them off kilter. In the place they are now, she is probably familiar with where everything is and how it works. In a new place she doesn't have that long term memory to fall back on. Everything is new and different. The lack of short term memory makes it difficult, if not impossible, to "learn". Just a kind forewarning to be on the look out!
Deb is right, if your Mom has cognition problem. she would forget more about her past and the old house as the memory is there.
My FIL moved to another state last year and he does not really remember anything about his old house in IL anymore. He may know some lady there if she calls, but he does not remember his house. It happened even in the first week after he moved, he had no idea why he had some luggage to come...
Indeed, look into it after your parents are settled down. By the way, is the new place a smaller house? A person with dementia cannot handle a big house.